Despite a wealth of public information detailing the U.S. government’s secret warrantless mass surveillance programs, a federal judge has blocked a lawsuit, claiming that revealing any details would threaten national security.
A federal judge has ruled that the federal government can assert state secrets privilege to keep details of the warrantless mass surveillance programs secret. The ruling from U.S. District Judge Jeffery White brings an end to a legal battle that has lasted more than ten years as five Americans sought to reveal the full scope of the controversial spying program. The plaintiffs have been represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) since 2008—several years before whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked classified files revealing the NSA’s massive spying apparatus.
Judge White agreed with arguments made by the Department of Justice, namely that revealing any details about whether the government collected the five plaintiffs’ internet and phone data would threaten national security. The judge refused to comment on whether previous reports on government surveillance confirmed that the U.S. government spied on Americans. The judge also stated that the evidence submitted by the plaintiffs did not support claims that the National Security Agency violated the Wiretap Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
Courthouse News reports:
“The judge refused to consider a letter the government accidentally disclosed to The New York Times in 2015, identifying AT&T, Verizon and Sprint as companies that gave the NSA access to customers’ phone records. Because the government inadvertently disclosed the document and disputes its authenticity, White said he could not rely on it.
White also declined to rely on a 2009 NSA inspector general’s draft report describing another mass surveillance program. Although former NSA contractor and fugitive Edward Snowden vouched for its legitimacy in a sworn declaration, White refused to consider it because the government would not authenticate it.”
In his 26-page ruling, Judge White wrote,”the court cannot issue a judgment without exposing classified information.” EFF says this argument is a Catch-22 where no one can sue unless the court first determines that they were specifically affected by the NSA’s mass surveillance programs. “But, the government argued successfully, the court cannot decide whether any particular person’s email, web searches, social media or phone calls were touched by the surveillance unless the government admits it. Which, of course, it will not do,” EFF wrote in response to the courts decision.
In the ruling, Judge White also dismissed evidence presented by EFF as based on hearsay. Specifically, the judge dismissed evidence presented by Mark Klein, a former AT&T technician who found evidence of AT&T partnering with the NSA. Klein first made headlines in 2003 when he discovered a secure room at an AT&T facility in San Francisco that was likely used for monitoring phone and internet traffic of AT&T customers.
“However, the Court confirms its earlier finding that Klein cannot establish the content, function, or purpose of the secure room at the AT&T site based on his own independent knowledge,” the judge wrote. “The limited knowledge that Klein does possess firsthand does not support Plaintiffs’ contention about the actual operation of the data collection process or the alleged agency role of AT&T. Klein can only speculate about what data were actually processed and by whom in the secure room and how and for what purpose, as he was never involved in its operation.”
EFF says that the wealth of evidence presented makes it clear that “there is likely no chance that our clients’ communications—like the communications of millions of innocent Americans—weren’t touched by the government’s programs.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation will seek a review of the decision in the Ninth Circuit court.
Prison Guard Who Had Sex With Inmate In Front Of 11 Prisoners Is Now Behind Bars
A prison guard in California now finds herself behind bars after she was caught having sexual relations with an inmate – in one case, performing the act in full view of 11 other prisoners.
Former Fresno County correctional officer Tina Gonzalez, 26, was arrested last May following an investigation by the vice unit of the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office’s and its internal affairs division.
Gonzalez, who worked as a prison guard from 2016 to 2019, was investigated after authorities were tipped off that an inmate was having sex with a prison guard who had also smuggled in a phone, reports the Fresno Bee.
In one case, Gonzalez even cut a hole in the pants of her uniform to allow easier access during sexual acts with the unnamed prisoner at Fresno County Jail.
Gonzalez was also accused of having sex in full view of 11 inmates, an act that her former boss says “is something only a depraved mind can come up with.”
Assistant Sheriff Steve McComas, who once supervised the unit Gonzalez belonged to, said that in his entire career of 26 years he has witnessed some “pretty disgusting things” but none as bad as Gonzalez’s conduct.
“She took an oath which she betrayed and in doing so endangered her co-workers’ lives,” McComas said.
“But she has shown no remorse,” he added. “She continually calls and has sexually explicit conversations with the inmate in question and boasts about the crimes she carried out.”
Gonzalez pleaded no contest in April to one count of sexual activity by a detention facility employee with a consenting confined adult, one count of possession of drugs or an alcoholic beverage in a jail facility and a misdemeanor count of possession of cellular device with intent to deliver to an inmate.
When she was being sentenced, Judge Michael Idiart decried her acts as “terrible, stupid” and noted that her career had been “ruined.”
“But I also believe that people can redeem themselves and you have the rest of your life to do that,” the judge added. “Good luck.”
Gonzalez is now serving her sentence of seven months in county jail to be followed by two years of probation.
Judge Orders New Trove of Secret Ghislaine Maxwell Files to Be Unsealed This Month
A large trove of secretive files about Ghislaine Maxwell will be unsealed this month, including those shedding light on her relationship with disgraced late financier Jeffrey Epstein, a judge ruled on Thursday.
The documents will include details on her finances, as well as “funding received from the Clinton Global Initiative and the Clinton Foundation,” according to court records.
The documents are also believed to detail Maxwell’s extensive connections with powerful men such as Prince Andrew of the British royal family, reports the Daily Mail.
It has long been well-known that Epstein and Maxwell associated with both Clinton and former President Donald Trump. Clinton also reportedly met with accused Maxwell for an “intimate” dinner in 2014.
The documents are a part were filed by Epstein accuser and former “sex slave” Virginia Roberts Giuffre in a 2015 civil lawsuit against Maxwell and must be released in mid-July, Judge Loretta Preska ruled in Thursday’s telephone hearing.
Giuffre sued Maxwell for defamation after she was accused by the British socialite of fabricating the sexual abuse allegations against her and Epstein in the lawsuit, which has since been settled.
Last July, a deposition by Giuffre was unsealed. In the deposition, Giuffre went into detail about alleged “constant” orgies that Maxwell and the late pedophile engaged in on Epstein’s private Caribbean island.
“There’s just a blur of so many girls,” Giuffre explained in the 2015 deposition.
“There were blondes, there were brunettes, there were redheads,” she continued. “They were all beautiful girls. I would say the ages ranged between 15 and 21.”
“The island was a place where orgies were a constant thing that took place. And again, it’s impossible to know how many,” Giuffre said, noting that she was “100 percent certain” that Maxwell took part in sexual acts with the girls.
Maxwell is accused of grooming multiple minors to engage in sex acts with Epstein, her ex-boyfriend, by befriending them to ask them about their lives and families while building friendships with the young girls alongside Epstein by taking their victims on social outings or out shopping in the 1990s and 2000s.
Maxwell has been detained at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York, pending trial.
Her five appeals to be released from jail have all been rejected.
Epstein, 66, was found dead in a lone cell in the special housing unit (SHU) of a federal Manhattan prison in New York City while facing a potential prison sentence of up to 45 years on charges of pedophilia and sex trafficking.
2 More Catholic Churches in Canada Burned as Third Mass Gravesite for Indigenous Kids Found
An additional two Catholic churches have been the target of likely arson in Canada as anger continues to grow in the aftermath of the discovery of over 1,000 human remains belonging to Indigenous children.
The news coincides with the discovery of a third site where 182 unmarked graves were located near a discovered near a residential school in British Columbia’s interior.
Early Wednesday morning, firefighters were dispatched to respond to a fire at St. Jean Baptiste Parish in Morinville, Alberta, which was basically gutted by the blaze.
“The fire was already fully involved from the basement when the first fire crews got here,” Morinville’s infrastructure general manager Iain Bushell told CTV News. “They entered the building but there was already collapse occurring on the inside of the church so they backed out and it’s been a defensive or exterior fire fight ever since.”
Police officials have described the blaze as “suspicious.”
Roughly an hour later, a fire was also reported at the Catholic St. Kateri Tekakwitha Church in Sipekne’katik First Nation in Nova Scotia, reports CBC.
At least seven churches, nearly all Catholic, have come under apparent arson attacks throughout Canada in recent weeks. Activists and Indigenous advocates have also defaced Catholic churches with bloody red hand and foot prints, while demonstrations have also been staged involving stuffed animal and the slogan “we were children.”
While it remains unclear what precisely caused the fires, they are believed to be linked to the recent discovery of mass graves and unmarked graves containing over 1,000 human remains near Catholic-run residential schools for First Nations children.
The discovery came just few weeks after the grim discovery of 215 Indigenous children’s bodied by the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc First Nation in a mass grave at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Colombia.
Also last month, the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan announced its discovery of 751 unmarked graves near the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School, which operated from 1899 to 1997 in the area.
Another site with 182 unmarked graves was announced Wednesday after an investigation undertaken by the community of ʔaq’am, near Cranbrook, British Columbia.
About 150,000 First Nations children were forcibly separated from their families and communities and forced to attend the religious schools which were established in the 19th century to assimilate Indigenous children into the Anglo settler-colonial culture of Canada.
Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has confirmed that large amounts of Indigenous children fled such residential schools or died there, their whereabouts unknown. Former students have also testified to the horrific sexual, mental and physical abuse they suffered while enrolled at the schools. Myriad students died from preventable diseases that rapidly spread in unsanitary conditions, as well as in accidents and fires. Others disappeared when trying to escape. The Commission has denounced the schools for institutionalizing child neglect and for being organs of “cultural genocide.”
Indigenous groups and Canadian politicians are also demanding an apology from the Catholic Church – specifically Pope Francis. Activists have also rejected Canada Day celebrations this year to highlight the anti-Indigenous atrocities that the founding of the North American country entailed.